We may have to rename The Bike Shed the BMW shed if this run of German flat twin’s doesn’t slow down soon, but you can’t hold a good marque down, and you can’t hold back on publishing a bike this well put together, with a story so well told. This is how it all came about, direct from Erik Christensen in Alaska. If Erik’s story doesn’t make you smile, you’re on the wrong website.
“I purchased the R90 in April and intended to ride the bike all summer before starting my cafe project. Every time I rode the bike I grew more unsatisfied because it was not the bike in my mind. 17 garage beers with friends later, the bike was in ziplock bags.”
“I have always had an affinity for BMW motorcycles and opposed cylinders – probably rooted in my previous aviation career. Finding a candidate for restoration in Alaska was the first challenge. Bikes in Alaska have the tendency of being used more than the average lower 48 (states) bike. I started calling every motorcycle person I knew inquiring about BMW airheads and who might have one for sale. Ironically, it was a Craigslist alert on my phone that led to the purchase of the R90.”
“I showed up to test the bike and met a gentleman with a peculiarly German first and last name. We chat and I try to haggle but it’s a halfhearted effort. I know I’ll pay asking price for the damn bike because I’ve already envisioned removing the boat anchor fairing, luggage bags and tractor seat. After we shake, the sellers demeanor changes and he invites me to look in the garages. Turns out his 82 year old father was the owner of the local BMW motorcycle dealership years prior. Naturally, I burnt my kitchen pass at home because I disappeared for the next two hours. Connex containers full of BMW bikes and parts littered the property while the real history was in the garage. Walls of BMW tools, posters, a sidecar rig and several complete bikes. I knew I was in the right place when I pulled open a drawer and it was full of old San serif BMW roundels. I almost came home with an R27 also but I knew the motorcycle clause in my pre-nup would never hold up.”
“The old German family and I became friends during the purchase of the bike. I felt I had purchased something special and this, in turn, led to the personal obligation to make the bike something special. The old German patriarch never approved of what I did to “perfectly good German engineering.” I joked with him that, “I’d trade a little of that engineering for a few style points.” He didn’t even crack a smile. Despite our different perspectives on the same motorcycle, he is always eager to offer advice about bikes and life. I received a surrogate grandfather with my motorcycle.”
“The theme of this build was New Vintage. I wanted a super clean, unique bike that would turn heads and sound refined. The pastel green and cream white originate from my love of everything old from the 60’s. Being 33 myself, sometimes I feel I was born in the wrong era. The brown striping was hand painted by master sign painter Perry Cowles at Perry’s Rod & Custom. This guy is sarcastic and candid and that can be a lethal combination for anyone’s ego. He was the inspiration behind the axle-mounted license plate and and integrated LED taillight. He’s a great friend and takes time out of his day to chat about any project on your menu.”
“Me and few buddies call ourselves Northern Cafe Racers on Facebook. Just a few guys with everyday lives building cafe bikes in our garages in anticipation of the incredible Alaskan riding season. The striped cylinder heads were the result of another beer-fueled garage meeting. Just as women wear horizontal stripes to make them look taller, I wanted the cylinder heads to appear even wider by employing this same visual trickery.”
“All frame and wheel parts are either power coated or bead blasted while every bearing and gasket was replaced along the way. While I had the bike fillet open I upgraded the alternator, diode board and went with electronic ignition. The dual disk conversion was already complete so I simply rebuilt the MC and replaced the rear shoes while using stainless hardware throughout.”
“The cockpit has the highest concentration of modifications. I used Japanese micro-switches because I am horrified of too much chunky plastic. I spent time in Japan so thankfully securing these switches was a little less difficult. The top plate started as one of Boxer Metals high quality plates. I wanted the data and appearance of an Acewell but I didn’t want gauges protruding like a teenagers pimple. After a few beers with friends at the machine shop, we had the top plate modified to host the Acewell flush. It’s amazing what booze and pizza gets you in a small town.”
“Garages are not for four wheeled vehicles in Alaska. The R90 is getting a few winter upgrades while I also start the next bike. I’m building a /2 conversion with lots of 1950’s flair. It promises to be another great blend of New Vintage. Like Northern Cafe Racers on Facebook for R90 build photos and progress photos of the next bike.”
That was a pleasure to read and to post. Huge thanks to Erik for sharing his story, and forcing us to break our ‘no cute shots of kids‘ rule. We hope to hear more from the Northern Cafe Racers soon. Lower 48s: – The bar has just been raised.